LEWISTON — Nonprofit groups are hoping that Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday will soon have even more meaning in the greater Lewiston-Auburn region as they use the day to kick off a campaign of volunteerism.
Gathering in Callahan Hall at the Lewiston Public Library on Sunday, representatives of charities — some from as far away as Portland — discussed new ideas for another year of service, after enjoying a potluck supper.
Representatives from Lots to Gardens, Tree Street Youth, River Valley Village, Lewiston Public Schools, Lewiston Housing Authority, Maine Campus Compact, Good Shepherd Food-Bank, Lewiston Public Library, Goodwill’s Multilingual Leadership Corps and AmeriCorps were on hand to speak a little about their mission and drum up support for the coming year and, hopefully, new volunteers,
Megan Emery, event organizer and Children’s Library technician at the Lewiston Public Library, presented brief documentaries on an array of volunteerism opportunities.
“We all have talents, we all have time, we all have opportunities to change our community,” Emery said, turning the floor over to the evening's guests, representing what Emery and others referred to as the "L-A Collective."
"Even if you volunteer an hour a month, you are helping," said Laura Personette of the Multilingual Leadership Corps and the Lewiston Housing Authority. "I think the hardest thing is getting the word out there."
Spreading the word about volunteerism in the community was a common thread among the discussions.
Leonard Kimble of New Auburn wished his new community were as close as his native Chicago, "I wish there were more ways to know my neighbors," Kimble said. "When we moved here, we just wondered when someone was going to show up with a basket."
AmeriCorps Vista volunteer Laurie Tewksbury led a discussion centered on bullying in middle school.
Her group wanted public schools to set up assemblies where students are encouraged to anonymously how they were bullied. The hope, Tewksbury said, was that open dialogue would replace fingerpointing when it came to bullying.
Other discussions centered around what each participant would do with volunteerism if money were no object.
For Lisa Lambert, a horse rescue project that would allow volunteers a more hands-on approach with the animals.
Lindsay Mathews envisioned an art-related project for children to come into a stocked studio and work.
Samantha Kimball would have a kitchen where volunteers would create baked goods in a fully stocked kitchen to support the program.
Sherie Blumenthal works with St. Mary's Nutritional Center, which coordinates Lewiston's farmers markets.
She described how volunteers can help in their gardens, work in kitchens or assist with administrative duties.
"A lot of adults are unemployed but want to help out," Blumenthal said, "They want to be engaged and involved."